Janie's Tribute as shared at her Celebration of Life on January 27, 2019
Where does one begin, and how does one put pen to paper to adequately capture the beauty, innocence and grace that is Janie Bordinhao? While words cannot do justice, this sentence Janie shared just two short months ago while ringing the bell at the Cure 4 the Kids clinic as family and friends celebrated a year in remission, paints Janie’s portrait so well.
“I tell my story, not so that I get the glory, but so that others may know hope.”
In the most trying challenge of her life, she wanted to help others. That was who she was, and that is how she lived her life, selfless and always leading by example.
But to get to the “end” of Janie’s Journey, or rather, the fork in the road, there is always a beginning, and ‘boy´ was it a beginning! Anyone who knows Ellen, knows how much she adores her two boys, Jansen and Jeff, but she always wanted a little girl.
On September 14, 1992, Ellen’s wish came true, as she brought a beautiful bundle of joy into the world. In keeping with the J-name theme, Ellen and Celso named their little girl Janie Brennan Bordinhao. Over the years, the boys may have nicknamed her Painie, but Ellen always referred to her as Precious Daughter.
As the youngest, Janie dutifully followed her older brothers around. Another girl to play with? No thanks, just put me in the goal for them to practice. Soccer dominated the Bordinhao household, and while the competition was fierce, Janie always kept her own. At age five she joined her first soccer team where she forged the beginning of a special relationship with her teammate Tasha. Janie followed in the footsteps of three Bordinhao soccer stars, but she also loved playing with Barbies, visiting Build-A-Bear, and her American Girl dolls. This adulation and unconditional love would build the foundation of the closeness they experienced, then and now..
From a young age, Janie carried a sunny disposition, which meant making friends was second nature -- as is evident here today. It didn’t hurt that she attended Marion Earl Elementary with Jeff while her mother was a teacher. Seeing her Mom in action reinforced what Janie had known all along, that she wanted to be a teacher, just like her mom.
As most of us know, middle school can be challenging, but her years at Sawyer Middle School only brought more friendships. Janie seldom met someone she didn’t like, and it was no surprise that everyone gravitated to her energy. She kept busy by studying hard, joining student council and beginning competitive soccer. In the summer of 2004 she began taking annual trips to Ohio to spend 2 weeks with her Aunt Amy and cousins where she was lovingly referred to by her grandparents as the “Golden Girl.”
The transition to high school was a walk in the park for Janie. As a freshman, she won a starting spot on the varsity soccer team at Durango High School (and held that spot all four years).
She was elected class president both her junior and senior years and played an active role in student council; her classmates aware of Janie’s desire to lead by example that came from a place void of ego. Despite her humility, Janie was still a teenage girl, so when she was voted “Best Looking” at Durango, she basked in the opportunity to carry on the Bordinhao tradition set by her two older brothers! Not only beautiful on the inside, but the outside as well….
Janie spoke at her high school graduation, giving tribute to her dear friend Jamie Dean for her heroic battle with leukemia. She received scholarships and was accepted by the Summer Business Institute to work at the Clark County Partnership office.
In the fall of 2010, Janie headed off to the University of Oregon, to major in education to fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Despite her close bond with family (especially her mother), she was eager to be independent and hop on a plane and move to another state - just as her brothers had done. Life in college for Janie lived up to the hype. She quickly took to sorority life, becoming a Kappa Kappa Gamma, and gaining 100 “sisters” at the same time. This was heaven to Janie, a woman who loved to be surrounded by others! Passionate about her sorority and helping others, her senior year she was elected as Recruitment Chair. Trips with friends to Shasta, Whistler and Mexico… Football games, hiking, sorority functions, Mom’s Weekends, and even a Dad’s weekend with her two older brothers. Summers were spent back in Las Vegas, working for the Boys and Girls Club, impacting the lives of those less fortunate.
After graduation in 2014, Janie received a coveted spot with Teach for America, a two-year commitment to be assigned to a school in a low-income community. Through TFA, she met her soul-sister, Beth Anne, and the two became inseparable. Janie was assigned to teach third grade in Weldon, North Carolina, a town of 1,600 people, a third living below the poverty line.
Janie quickly learned how difficult it was to create an environment for children to learn under these circumstances and set out to change that. Janie constantly dug into her own pocket to buy her students food and supplies that they would not have received otherwise. Her legacy at that school lives on, as students, teachers, and administrators have all been there to support Janie throughout her journey. There is no doubt that his exposure to the inequities in life had a lasting impact on Janie and would go on to shape her outlook and choices in the future.
The bug to help those less fortunate was still tugging at Janie’s heart, so after TFA, she accepted a job teaching math and science (in English) in Khon Kaen, Thailand for a school year. Janie immersed herself in her work, teaching others patience and kindness along the way, gaining yet another set of followers. Though she missed her family, Janie loved living abroad and experiencing new cultures. On weekends and holidays, she traveled the country and to neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Her Uncle Greg took her on a luxurious trip to Bali, and her family and friends came to visit -- creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Janie arrived home in Las Vegas on May 6, 2017, for a chapter no one saw coming. Just 48 hours after her arrival, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Not showing the slightest sense of fear, she started treatment immediately, and soon became a different type of teacher to us all. The infectious vibe of love and support created what we all know as JANIESTRONG, soon became a movement – a movement to show Janie and others, that “NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE.” Friends and family across the country participated in races supporting various cancer organizations, sported ‘JanieStrong’ shirts and buttons, and created videos and artwork -- to show Janie that she indeed was not alone. She received everything that was given to her, both in gift and in the heart, and was filled with joy from all the love.
After several months of treatment, the realization occurred that a bone marrow transplant was necessary. Kits were sent out to family and friends, and her brother Jansen ended up being a perfect match. Not once during the Journey did Janie complain. She taught us patience and bravery. Janie’s support system fed off of Janie’s own strength and radiating love, especially her mother and father, who never left her side.
On November 17, 2017, Janie received stem cells and was “born anew,” cancer-free. After two months in Tuscon, AZ, Janie returned home to Vegas to a somewhat ‘normal life,’ and the following months were some of the best. She moved into her own condo, began teaching part-time at Beverly Mathis Elementary School, traveled with her family, snuggled with her father on the couch, and took trips to see old college friends. This past November, she celebrated being cancer-free at the clinic, surrounded by friends and family.
What little did we know that God had other plans for her and her faithful pup, Buddy. Her beloved dog, Buddy, passed the day after Christmas, seemingly with a broken heart after not seeing her best friend for a few weeks. Shortly after the New Year, it became apparent that God was ready for Janie to get her angel wings. As a family, the Bordinhao’s made the gut-wrenching decision to allow Janie to find her wings. Janie waited until everyone had a chance to say goodbye, and for her brother and new sister-in-law to have a magical wedding day.
This was Janie. Till the end, living a life of service and thinking of others.
Back to the fork in the road mentioned earlier… This is not the end of Janie’s Journey. The test of her legacy will be what we do from this point forward. How has she inspired you to be a little more “Janie” in your life? She would have wanted you to give selflessly, to teach those around you, to love fearlessly, to spend time with family, and to laugh and smile endlessly. Continue to live life the way Janie did, and I guarantee you will be rich with reward.
We leave you with these parting words to hold onto:
“We tell her story, as she has finally received Glory, and so that others may know hope.”
Rest in Peace Janie.
With you as our angel, we will always be JanieSTRONG.